Community Care Givers with their facilitators during the launch of the Multinational Lung Cancer Control Programme (MLCCP).

UKZN’s College of Health Sciences launched a Multinational Lung Cancer Control Programme (MLCCP) in which about 35 Community Care Givers (CCGs) received palliative care training.

Organisers of the programme – which aims to improve the public’s access to early diagnostic services, treatment and care for lung cancer – selected CCGs from Umlazi, Lamontville, Imbalenhle and Sobantu.

‘The training was designed to enhance the participants’ understanding of palliative care,’ said Ms Minenhle Dlamini, one of the workshop facilitators.

‘The World Health Organization describes palliative care as a way of improving the lives of the patients by “prevention and relief of suffering through early identification, impeccable assessment, and treatment of pain and other symptoms, as well as the provision of physical, psychosocial, and spiritual support”,’ said Dlamini.

‘Palliative care involves a multidisciplinary team including medical professionals, social workers, psychologists, nurses, community carers, volunteers and other health professionals.’

The programme also aimed to upskill CCGs in care practises specific to lung, cervical, breast, and prostate cancer, among others.

The week-long theoretical training took place at Glenmore Pastoral Centre, and the two-day practical session was held at hospices in Wentworth and Inchanga.

The training ended with a debriefing session where the CCGs shared their personal experiences and views of the training.

‘The most beautiful thing you can do is to help somebody and make a difference,’ said the MLCCP programme’s Principal Investigator, Epidemiologist and UKZN senior lecturer, Dr Themba Ginindza.

‘Believe in yourself,’ Ginindza advised the CCGs. ‘Always ask if you do not understand and remember the work you do is very important. You give hope to the hopeless and you leave them with something.’

CCG Ms Fezeka Cele said the training had been very informative for her. ‘I learned a lot about cancer, signs and symptoms. I now know the different types of cancer in both adults and children. I have also learned to handle and screen headaches.’

Cele’s colleague Ms Nomusa Miya thanked UKZN and its staff for providing the training, ‘We are grateful for the information gained in the training. I now know the different stages of cancer while previously I thought it was HIV.’

‘I now realise if I had this training earlier, I could have saved lives. I really enjoyed the practical experience at the hospice,’ said Ms Princess Shezi.

Mrs Vijee Govender said she was touched by the whole experience, ‘I admire the bravery involved and how strong CCGs are in dealing with dying children.’

The MLCCP – a first in Africa – involves four countries; Kenya, Tanzania, Swaziland and South Africa.

It focuses on four areas: (1) Raising awareness about lung cancer in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN); (2) Conducting a needs assessment to identify barriers to lung cancer patient access, referral, diagnosis and treatment; (3) Assessing the risk factors associated with lung cancer in KZN, and (4) Assessing factors determining progressive use of palliative care services by patients with cancer in both public and private sectors.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini